The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leadership Reflections from a Trombonist

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
My trombone sits in its case whenever I am not playing it. It sits there just waiting for me to pick it up and play it. And when I do pick it up and perform, others listen and expect me to play the right notes with the correct rhythms and style. No one wants to listen to dissonance or incompetence for very long periods of time. People expect high levels of musicianship from me when I perform.

Afterschool program leadership is about playing an instrument called "you." You, too, have to play in tune, march to the correct beat, stay in step, lead with style, and arouse emotions with your audiences. Your leadership must at times be brassy and bold and other times quite mellow and lyrical. Most importantly, leadership is art form.  And when you lead, you are always giving a performance.

The early American jazz musicians took musical performance to a new place. Sometimes, they didn't know or understand all the traditional rules of music. But they didn't let that stop them.  They loved what they did too much to allow their lack of formal training or scorn from the classicists to slow them down or get in the way. They made up their own rules.  When they were performing and suddenly didn't like where their songs were going, they simply changed things up by transposing the key, improvising the rhythms, creating new tunes, and developing even better music. Supporting each other, learning, and performing in tight-knit ensembles they created an art form within the music business that was different, unique, creative, and truly American.  Jazz has become big business in the music industry.

We can do the same after school. First, we must always make sure to take our instrument every day, play it well, and lead! We also don't need to think that we are lesser performers that must conform to all the theories, rules, and practices of the past. If we do, we will sound boring and irrelevant. We must create new tunes, new beats, unique rhythms, and most importantly, a style uniquely our own.

Let’s make beautiful music. Our kids will listen. So will the public!

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